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Warrington vet surgeon given formal warning for false certification

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee has given a formal warning to a Warrington-based veterinary surgeon after it found she deliberately provided incorrect certification about the conditions of a Greyhound kennel.

The hearing for Natalia Oakes MRCVS took place from Monday 16 April to Thursday 19 April 2018 regarding a Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) Veterinary Surgeons Residential Kennel Inspection Form.

The charges were that Oakes had signed a form which indicated that there were 55 Greyhounds in the kennel, when there were more, and also she stated that the kennels were in an acceptable condition, when they were found not to be. Furthermore, she knew the form was inaccurate and/or was dishonest in relation to what she had indicated on the form.

The kennels in question, Rough Cottage, were owned by Louise Eccles and her husband, Rod Eccles. Mrs Eccles was licensed by GBGB as a trainer, allowing her to train and race Greyhounds and making the kennels accountable to inspections by veterinary surgeons.

Oakes had been attending Rough Cottage for about a year and a half on a monthly basis, up through August 2016. On or around 1 August 2016, Mrs Eccles had left Rough Cottage for personal reasons and Oakes visited the premises on 14 August 2016 with Amanda Gething of Northern Greyhound Rescue, when she learned that there were 80 dogs instead of 55.

On 16 August, she and Gething returned to Rough Cottage with Lucille Cavadino, from Lancky Dogs, a Greyhound rescue organisation. They found that the kennels were not of acceptable standard, but Oakes said that the dogs housed in these kennels were fit and healthy.

Oakes spoke to Mr Eccles around this time, and although he had plans to rehouse some of the dogs she was concerned that he might change his mind. Oakes then decided sign the kennel inspection form, knowing that the details were incorrect.

Oakes said she did this to ‘appease’ Mr Eccles so that he would not hinder the plans to remove and rehouse the dogs. She admitted to the area GBGB Stipendiary Steward that she had signed the form and that it contained incorrect information.

At the beginning of the hearing Oakes admitted all the charges except for the final one which claimed that she had been dishonest about what she had indicated on the form. When she gave evidence during the hearing, however, she admitted that she had been dishonest and so all charges were found proved.

The Committee considered her motives in signing the form were to try and safeguard animal welfare, but noted that she was misguided in how she reached that aim. The Committee found that there was a definite breach of the Code of Professional Conduct.

Chitra Karve, chair of the Disciplinary Committee, said: “So far as mitigating factors are concerned, the Committee is satisfied that the respondent’s motivation for what she did was governed by her overwhelming wish to promote the health or welfare of the greyhounds at Rough Cottage. The Committee is satisfied that no actual harm or risk of harm to any animal occurred in this case.

“There was no financial gain to the respondent and the Committee has been told that she charged no fee for her extensive efforts in organising or assisting with the removal and rehousing of the greyhounds from Rough Cottage. The Committee considers that this was a single and isolated incident and that the risks of similar behaviour being repeated in the future are low. “

She added: “The Committee has decided that it will be sufficient to protect the welfare of animals, to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct, for the respondent to be given a formal warning as to her future conduct.”

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